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Sunday, August 9, 2020

Beacon Bits -- Wide Open

It is time to celebrate the opening of some of the cultural institutions in the Hudson Valley. It is a good reason to support the nonprofit venues with a membership, whether it is a new one or an early renewal, for the mutual benefits of showing appreciation for the arts along with the perks that are being offered to the member. One such benefit of membership is early entry before opening day for the public, as well as continued offerings for appointment times that may not be otherwise available to the public.

I had the foresight to make an appointment to go to Dia Beacon on a members-only day prior to its scheduled opening. The appreciation of the familiar exhibits, as well as a few new ones that were installed since my last visit, was the backdrop to have conversation with the staff who were back to work after four months away from their on-site schedule, and to take in the open space and light and what I found myself calling, the 'sights of silence.'

There was a contrast between a slight sense of agoraphobia when walking in the cavernous building where some exhibits had been taken down and claustrophobia if one decided to traverse the ship-like structures of Richard Serra that contain a labyrinthine like path to a center that feels narrow and deep. The both/and of the open sense of the space as well as the movement into the contained spaces felt like a metaphor for what is being endured during this pandemic: an open-ended sense of uncertainty along with a sense of being closed down and restricted. However, they are in justaposition with each other, almost in an accordion-like fashion, so that there is both an expansive movement into the unknown with the anxiety of uncertainty followed by a limited and finite movement into the here and now.

Food for thought:  An outing, an adventure, an excursion is necessary for an outlet from the ordinary day-to-day activities during this prolonged shutdown. There are benefits to making some plans to regain a sense of control, albeit an illusion, and only within a limited context, but it is exercising choice and free will. It is good to remember that freedom comes from exercising options that are diverse and close at hand, without choosing to be unsafe or reckless, and that the arts can influence our experience in extraordinary ways during these rare times.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Beacon Bits -- Transformation

Time has gone quickly. Time has slowed down. Time has come to a screeching halt. Time repeats itself. We have had all of these impressions of time as we have continued to live through this coronavirus pandemic and while witnessing the immediate and dramatic response to the obvious and persistent racial inequity in our society.

To say that these have been times to ponder life is an understatement. I thought I would continue writing and musing on this blog throughout the 'pause' imposed by our prescient governor in NYS, but I was caught up in other projects and tasks that I would prioritize daily in order to structure my time in this life transition and sense of being betwixt and between.

One such project was collecting a chair from a basement in Brooklyn to have it reupholstered and restored so that I could incorporate it into my home. I am not sure how old it is, but I think it may be at least early 19th century and possibly from the Philadelphia area where there were connections through a family member's partner. Reclaiming the chair was not as easy as I thought because of its size and awkwardness. But the serendipity was having a place of business in Beacon that remained open and could accept the work order in mid-June, so my motivation became stronger to retrieve it and haul it home.

My first visit to Denise Gianna Designs LLC at 480 Main Street while taking a stroll on Main Street in the autumn of 2019. After entering the shop filled with groupings of furniture, decorative art, and unique collectibles, I took notice that they offered upholstery services with New Life Upholestery by Amy and took some business cards after having a brief discussion to verify that this was something I could follow up on since I had this chair on my mind since the spring of 2018. I had familiarity with reupholstering some of my older furniture when living in Rockland County at S Tillim's Fabric Store and recalled the time my mother had slipcovers made for her Chippendale style living room furniture when I was growing up; I still regret not taking her wingback chair in the 1970s when offered to me. 

After finding the business cards and making contact with Amy to drop off the chair, I was pleased that I had previously ordered some Sam Moore fabric to match a piece of furniture I already had in my living space since it would not have been possible to do so in the late spring with the store closings. Luckily, my guess of how much fabric was needed was just enough to complete the chair.

Sam Moore Fabric
The workmanship of the finished chair was impeccable. Amy's work is filled with loving care and her cordiality and respect for timeless pieces was underscored by her saving the original needlework covering from the chair for me with the hope that I would appreciate the handiwork. I always appreciate tapestry needlepoint and can frequently find myself in awe of the patience and commitment that women had to complete the works of art that can withstand the test of time, another reminder that there were makers long before the maker movement. It was an unexpected and welcome gift that she thought to save it since I had not remembered to ask her to do that initially.

After some discussion about the possibility of using the preserved pieces of the needlepoint tapestry for some accent pillows, and taking the two large pieces for a thorough dry cleaning, Amy put her talents to work so that another part of the past was reclaimed and made into new life. The pillows are uniquely shaped because they were carefully placed around where wear and tear on the chair had created damage and ripped stitching. 
Amy Baker
I have visited the design studio and shop several times and love being in the workspace in the lower level where Amy is mentoring girls in her family to appreciate the work she has been called to do. I also like to be in the midst of the color and inspiration and find the lively discussions with Denise, the owner of the business, to be uplifting and a reminder for me to stay connected with the community during these times of caution and self-care. I have already recommended the business to some local friends who appreciate knowing they can support this quality business so close to home. I know I will return with some ideas for new projects and perhaps request Amy to make a pillow from my own needlepoint project that will be started as we hunker down in place this winter while awaiting safe vaccines.
Denise Gianna

Food for thought: Bringing the past into the present and feeling connected to the timelessness in objects is part of the beauty of restoration. It is a metaphor for personal transformation as well. Reclaiming. Restoring. Refurbishing. Remaking. It is an important part of this pause when we can deepen our connections to what was and what can be. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Graduating Seniors

To the Graduating Class of 2020

Be it high school, or college, there has been a unique set of circumstances that have changed your expectations related to your rite of passage and pomp and circumstance that you have worked hard and long to be able to celebrate. 


While you may not have the prom, the parties, the last semester to goof off and to hang out with individuals you may or may not have in your life as you move through your journey, you still have this very moment in time. 


As far as future plans go, you are being called on to adapt and be flexible in ways that you may not have ever thought of. 


2020 was already a catchy way of remembering this marker in your life. 


Set your sights on new horizons and never be discouraged. 


Feel the frustration, the disappointment, the feeling of being robbed of your special day. But continue to feel the joy and anticipation of your future journey. You have reached the dialectic in 2020 -- the 'both-and' rather than the either-or thinking that gets people stuck.


You will become resilient and you will learn the importance of life and you will never take any blessing for granted ever again. 


Congratulations and best of luck and wishes for all the rainbows, silver linings and new beginnings to come your way!!
Food for thought: 20-20 vision is usually about hindsight, but we now have a new meaning for this phrase: it is about having a new perspective. A perspective that will make a difference. A perspective that will serve the individual and society. A perspective that will be lasting. There is no return to 'how things were'; it is about creating a new reality for the future. 20-20 vision is a powerful metaphor for getting things right and seeing things perfectly as they are and as they can be and must be for the future of humanity.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Beacon Bits -- Homage to My Mom

Even before Mother's Day weekend, I have had my mother on my mind. She grew up as a child of immigrants during the challenging times of the Great Depression. As I was growing up, I recall her telling me many times, "I hope you never have to go through what we went through." I heartfully acknowledge I am more blessed than those I worry about in these times, and I am finding ways to show that I care as my mother also taught me, but I also recall that my mother planted the seeds of good self-care and preparation in case of an emergency or tough times. While I resisted stocking cupboards and never wanted to freeze meats or fish for later use, I now see the wisdom of having the cupboards stocked with that 'extra' something(s) that you just may need. However, I mostly feel grateful for the ways that my mother cooked and how she taught me to cook; I call it 'peasant cooking', Norwegian style, and recall fondly her telling me about the soup her mother would make with a fish head and some vegetables so that she was not only able to feed her family of 5, but also have enough for those who fell on even tougher times and did not have a pot of food available to them.

So as I have been stocking my cupboards with some canned items (e.g., beans, stewed tomatoes, sardines -- only King Oscar, the best brand, grains, pasta and staples for baking) and starting to freeze 'leftover' meals so that I can spread out the goodness without having to eat the same meal on a daily basis (e.g., baked ziti, lentil soup), I am thankful for the know-how of cooking from scratch and the memories of my mother's table.

Today I made a variation of her beef stew with tastes of Beef Burgundy and Hungarian Goulash with what I had on hand: shallots, celery, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, red wine, chicken broth,  paprika,  garlic powder, salt and pepper and some herbs de Provence. It was inspired by the arctic freeze and snow on Mt. Beacon and was perfect as a midday meal while listening to the Saturday matinee opera on the radio. The beef was purchased at Nature's Pantry on Rt. 52 in Fishkill (since I am not yet ready to embark on the search for the local farms offering local meats just yet vis-a-vis my new intention--see previous post on 5/3/20); the meat is still a local product and for 4 servings, is very reasonable and was very tender! And with the receipt of my new subscription to Misfits Market today, I am beginning to envision my next 'peasant meal.'

Food for thought: There are just some things that will always be remembered; Mother's cooking and wishes for her children are just some of them. And remembering them this weekend in the midst of other thoughts, feelings, and issues that can be on one's mind, makes it more the special as they 'stew'. For those who are moms, for those who aren't, for those who still have a mom, for those whose moms are resting in peace --- Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Beacon Bits -- Belonging to Boscobel

Within our 'neighborhood' surrounding Beacon, we have the majestic historical landmark, Boscobel, which as noted by the signs on Route 9D, can be everyone's 'home on the Hudson.' I am pleased that I became a 'friend' in 2010 and have maintained membership throughout the years, which is a small way to support its operation. I have been on at least five tours with various docents, with our without visitors or guests that I have brought along and learn something new during each visit; volunteered at holiday and special events on the grounds and within the house when extra help is needed;  and visited the gift shop frequently for special purchases for myself or others, which have made the best gifts all around. (I have also attended ten seasons of Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF) under the tent on the grounds overlooking the Hudson River with its iconic vista of West Point.) So in these times, when the opening of the house and grounds for guided tours is on 'pause' and the notification to ticketholders that the 2020 season of HVSF has been cancelled, it was a real treat to be 'invited' as a member to consider the privilege of making a visit to the grounds by appointment when I recently received an email. It turned out to be a picture perfect day and the pictures tell it all.

Food for thought: Please consider a membership as a way of suppporting this nonprofit organization in our midst. It is not too late to join for this season. I recently learned that it takes $3000 per day to maintain its operations. The Federalist level is $150 per year with season pass benefits and discounts for the gift shops and other events in addition to admission with four passes for the house tours and grounds privileges. It is a worthwhile donation. It is the neighborly thing to do. Especially now. You will not want to miss the view and sense of peaceful renewal that the landscape offers. And you will feel good about contributing to our local treasure. If you are already a member, consider purchasing a membership as a gift for a friend or family member to appreciate the history in our midst.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Beacon Bits -- Choices

No excuses - I have more time to blog now, but I did write a post that I had to delete. It was about finding sanctuary at my church home that technically is closed, but the doors have been open for silent prayer with safe distance and music on Sunday mornings. It has been restorative during these times when I attend.

This post is about something different than my usual posts, but it is stilld about local resources within proximity to Beacon. I got inspired to write this post after watching the news last week, which showed the meat packing industry's response to re-opening at the President's request despite the dangers and risks for its workers in order to keep the food supply chain unencumbered. I was appalled at the footage on PBS related to the 'farming' of the masses of pigs for the industry to have for its pork production. They compared and contrasted it with other smaller midwest farmers that have chosen to raise fewer pigs with more ethical practices. The visual difference between pens of pigs, loin to loin, vs. two to three pigs with piglets in a pen with the chance to roam was eye opening. 

Full disclosure -- I am not vegan, nor am I vegetarian, nor would I am planning to make a decision to become meat free. In general, I eat very little meat and poultry, and rely mostly on fish, vegetables and complex carbohydrates and fruit to survive; I also believe it is in the 'right' proportion that was intended for us to eat. When I saw the TV broadcast, it was apparent that the only reason that cost of mass production vis-a-vis the consumer comes into play is twofold: (1) profit for the corporation and (2) cheaper prices for consumers so they can eat large and unhealthy amounts of meat products, which has led to one of the many risk factors for coronavirus---that is, obesity--due to fast food and unhealthy eating habits. It came full circle --- the only benefit of the large centralized meat production industry in this country is for the corporations who desire more profit and do not care for their workers. So if Cesar Chavez had his rallying call for fair wages for the migrant farmers, maybe it is time we have a reclaimed locally farmed meat economy that benefits the families and workers who are committed to their community and can be held responsible for ethical business and production practices. (I believe poultry farming has somewhat had its day to reclaim improved and ethical egg production with cage-free practices.)

I guess I can lay claim to my my family heritage related to farming here. My mother's family had a farm in Sola near Stavanger Norway and I recall their practices in 1962 when I visited. I will never forget the carrot and strawberry and milk that I, as a girl raised in Brooklyn, had to taste on that farm so long ago. The farm fed them and they were able to sustain a living by selling to local markets.  I am grateful and aware that I see the same kinds of practices are returning to our Hudson River Valley with CSAs and locally raised farm stock for our purchase. A long-time supporter of CSAs, now it's time to step it up for livestock farmers.

So this blog is about sharing my resolve to only shop for meat from local farmers who are operating with sustainable practices and who are ethically responsible; this is one choice and a response to what we all need to learn to do going forward in order to change our living habits accordingly. By doing so, I will support the local farmers and eat my small amounts of meat and poultry, which by far is healthier, and at least does not put money into the pockets of greedy owners who operate centralized meat packing industry at the expense of their employees. Higher cost is not an issue for a higher quality of meat in the just right amount of what an individual should be consuming to begin with; no super sizing needed!

Food for thought:  I have begun to do some research and offer the following suppliers for meat and poultry in the Beacon area. I am sure we will need to keep visiting their websites in order to be aware of current practices. Check back for updates and recipes related to this new source of locally raised farm stock.

Grass & Grit --
Arch River Farm -
Glynwood -

Monday, March 30, 2020

Beacon Bits -- Both Sides Now

The song "Both Sides Now" that Judy Collins made famous did not necessarily refer to the "both-and" dialectic, which is a current phrase appropriate for our times. But the song comes to mind when we think of how the pandemic and its dire consequences are occurring across the country and the globe. These are terrible times, for sure, but at the same time, the concept of resilience has been alluded to again and again.  

Think of the old bumper sticker, "Shit Happens." Everyone knew what it meant (that is, bad things happened randomly) and everyone could relate to it. But did you know that there was also a bumper sticker that was popularized in the 1990's that stated, "Grace Happens." Grace is the concept of free and unmerited goodness that is available to all. Perhaps some people relate to the concept of grace more than others. Yet, when we simultaneously think of these two bumper stickers, we can see that it is never a matter of 'either/or', but more importantly, we can see it as the 'both/and' of any situation. Bad things happen and good things happen. Simultaneously. Concurrently. Both sides now.

Thinking about this in the midst of the day-to-day hardships and challenges created by the pandemic that has caused a radical change in routines, income, predictability, control and any semblance of security and safety, we may be reminded that there is a gift being given in the midst of the pain. We can begin to entertain the world of both/and thinking.

That is what 'resilience' really is. It is not just grit and tireless motivation to overcome a difficulty when crisis or trauma occurs. Resilience is not just about returning to baseline; it is not just about bouncing back. Resilience is about become stronger or more adaptive because of new information that is integrated or learning that has occurred during the hardship. Learning is about changing behavior. It may also reflect a change in attitude or perspective that is adopted so that the capacity to be more flexible is possible.

So, this is all 'food for thought'. What is the 'grace' that you are finding in the midst of all the 'shit' that is going on in our world at this time? How are you personally being affected in negative ways and what is the positive outcome for you? What are you learning and how are you being changed? What do you want to return to and what are you ready to give up? How will you integrate this point in time in your future worldview? Have you found grace?